Can You Text On a Plane 2023? (WIFI vs DATA)

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Can You Text On a Plane
Apple iPhone X / Courtesy of Amazon

In 2021, mobile users in the US sent roughly 2 trillion SMS or MMS messages.

But the question is whether you can text on a plane or not and if there are any alternatives?

In general you can’t send an SMS ( Short Messaging Service) or texts while on your flight using cellular data, but; fortunately there are still many alternative ways to connect with your loved ones and friends.

As long as the airplane has WiFi connection, you can use various messaging applications like WhatsApp, Apple iMessage or Facebook Messenger to connect with your loved ones, or to do some unfinished business.

By the end of this article, you should have a clear understanding of whether or not you can text on a plane and what to expect while doing so on your next flight.

Let’s dive right in..

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Can You Text On a Plane Using cellular Data?

Whether you are using an iPhone, an android device or a tablet.

You can text on any flight with messaging apps like Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger etc.. using WiFi connection.

The reason why you can’t text on a plane using cellular Network is for safety reasons, the FAA stated that cell phones may not be used for voice communications or for cellular connections on planes, because they will miss pilots connections and signals while trying to communicate with air traffic controllers at the ground.

And that’s not a good idea.

The FCC and FAA ban cell phones for airborne use because its signals could interfere with critical aircraft instruments. Devices must be used in airplane mode or with the cellular connection disabled. You may use the WiFi connection on your device if the plane has an installed WiFi system and the airline allows its use.


So generally as long as you are not allowed to use cellular data on your phone, the SMS messaging will not be available.

However; even texting using WiFi can depend on your airline , some airlines may not offer free WiFi or have access for some apps like Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger.

For example Frontier Airlines do not have WiFi on board so you won’t be able to send or receive any kind of messages.

What About Phone Calls?

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You can’t make phone calls with your cellular network.

WiFi voice calls are not allowed on many airlines, and so many passengers do not want voice calls either to be allowed on planes, as they want their flights to be time to relax, sleep, read or view a movie, instead of listening to other phone calls.

I don’t think it is a bad idea to make a quick voice call if it is necessary (if the airline allows them).

Otherwise I would rather recommend texting, or making the calls at the airport before boarding the plane.

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A screenshot from American Airlines Wesbite

Using Airlines WiFi For Texting

Regular SMS messages can’t be sent or received using inflight Wi-Fi because these messages can only be sent using your phone cellular data.

Most Airlines WiFi planes allow you to send and receive SMS messages using the usual apps like WhatsApp, Apple Messages/iMessage, etc.).

If you purchase a WiFi plane you will be able to send emails, tweet, and login to other social media platforms as much as the WiFi capacity allows.

Here is an overview on airlines WiFi availability.

American AirlinesPaid WiFi is available
United AirlinesPaid WiFi available to enable text messaging and more.
Frontier AirlinesNo Wi-Fi
Southwest AirlinesFree in-flight text messaging Available
Hawaiian AirlinesNo Wi-Fi
Delta Air LinesYou can message for free on delta free WiFi (limited to text and emojis, SMS unavailable).
Alaska AirlinesYou can message through iMessage, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp on flights that also offer in-flight internet. You can send words and emojis, but sending photos, videos or SMS messages isn’t supported.
JetBlue free Wi-Fi Available
Air Canada Paid WiFi Available in selected flights
British AirwaysPaid WiFi available
QantasQantas offers free Wi-Fi on most domestic flights
Some airline allow passengers to text using free WiFi

If you can’t disconnect with the people on the ground make sure that you download all the apps you need and that your airline has access to WiFi before boarding the airplane, it may cost you some additional fees to download an app using airlines WiFi.


Benefits Of Airplane Mode While Traveling

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While for some passengers Airplane mode may not be a good idea, it really has some other advantages.

It will save your battery life if you are in a seat without power outlets, or you don’t bring a power bank.

When charging your phone, turning airplane mode will help charge your phone quickly, because most of the apps are not connected and consuming the power.

Also it will save you some serious roaming charges especially when traveling abroad, but if you turn on airplane mode and connect with WiFi you don’t need to worry about the possible high roaming fees.

What Are My Other Options If There Is No WiFi On a Plane?

You won’t be able to receive or send text messages using cellular data on board the airplanes, but if there is WiFi available you can use some messaging apps to text.

The only problem with in-flight Wi-Fi is that it can be expensive, but here is an idea: you can buy the WiFi cheaper before going to the airport.

What you have to do is to look for your airline WiFi provider and buy WiFi on their website.

Most airlines operate with Gogo, just browse their website and pay for WiFi, you will save almost half of what you will pay when you are on board the airplane.

Final Thoughts

You can text on planes using messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, Apple Messages/ iMessage, WhatsApp, etc.. all of these apps work with WiFi, but you can’t text or receive messages using your phone cellular data.

The time you board the airplane, the flight attendant will tell you to turn on the airplane mode on your phone, even though the cellular network won’t work most of the time if the airplane reaches a high altitude.

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